Philip Langridge CBE, 1939-2010
Date: 6 March 2010
With the death of Philip Langridge, one of opera’s most distinctive voices is now silent. The Kent-born tenor was frequently dubbed the natural successor to another English singer, Peter Pears, but the merest glance at his wide-ranging repertoire and his international standing shows how facile a label that was. Not that it ever held him back.
Langridge’s career flourished in Lieder and oratorio, and his profound contributions to the Hyperion Schubert edition are among that cycle’s highlights. But he was most truly at home, spiritually as well as musically, in the opera house.
He was a sublime interpreter of complex characters; a singing actor with a deep talent for creating the turbulent, truthful inner lives of the roles he played, irrespective of period or style. His range extended from Handel and Mozart through Wagner and Janacek to Stravinsky and even Schoenberg, and he appeared on all the world’s great operatic stages.
He had a striking stage presence. The voice, slightly nasal but fully rounded – never reedy or whiny – was deeply expressive and was articulated with immaculate clarity, whatever the language. It could not be described as heroic or beautiful, though, and he chose his roles with a keen sensitivity to his own vocal qualities – always playing to his strengths. Verdi, Bellini and Puccini were not for him; on the other hand he thrived on the psychological meat of the post-romantic German and Czech masters. And Britten, of course.
Thankfully, recordings by (among others) Steuart Bedford and the late Richard Hickox have preserved Langridge’s interpretations of most of Britten’s great tenor roles. There is not a dud among them. Whether singing the Madwoman in Neville Marriner’s Curlew River or Aschenbach in Death in Venice for Hickox, his extraordinary depth of character dominates the listening experience. The twin jewels, though, are Peter Grimes and Vere in Billy Budd both also for Hickox. Different as they are, each of them ranks among the most subtle and compassionate on record.
Philip Langridge’s countless appearances at ENO and the Royal Opera will linger long in the memory – and several of them, including Tim Albery’s powerful Budd and Grimes (both ENO), will live on through DVD. But the thrilling immediacy of live performances by this most humane and intellectually incisive of singers is lost to us now, and as opera lovers our world has grown smaller.
Philip Langridge – born 16 December 1939, died 5 March 2010
- Mark Valencia
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|Even at this late date,8 Dec 2011, his death still shocks. I wonder that in Philip Langridge's obituaries no mention is made of his being survived by his wife, Irish mezzo Ann Murray, and his children. Wonderful, tho', to see comments by the likes of John Shirley-Quirk! If his illness was rapid, perhaps he was spared much pain, both physical and emotional. I hope so, for he was a dear man, a sensitive human being and a genuine artist who took it as it came, with poetic insight and endurance. - Marya ||07 Dec 11|
|What a terrible shock to hear of his death. He was far too full of life to die so young. My heart goes out to Ann and the family. I have treasured memories of working with him over the years. He created such interesting and intelligent characters in his stage work and his musicianship was extraordinary. Working together was always exciting and he inspired us all to give of our very best. Remembered with great affection. Chris B-J - CHRIS BOOTH-JONES||05 Apr 10|
|Philip Langridge's death has been a palpable shock. His interpretation of Gerontius quite simply changed my perception of death and I was able to tell him so at a chat session at The Wigmore Hall at the time of his 70th Birthday Celebration concert there late last year. I hope his passing was, as Gerontius indicated, ultimately, without fear. - Lesley Taylor||27 Mar 10|
|I hadn't heard the news and am so saddened. Not being a singer, I never had the pleasure of working with him, but just of listening to that exquisite and distinctive voice and of watching superb performances, firstly at Buxton when he and Ann were there, then at ENO. My sympathies, Ann, but know that you are surrounded by much love in your loss. - Sue||09 Mar 10|
|What terrible news! Although a letter from a friend had warned me of Phillip's illness, and he and I had exchanged e-mails (his was extremely up-beat, as might have been expected knowing his seemingly inexhaustibly cheerful disposition), this illness must have progressed with devastating speed.
I can still remember the first time we worked together when the two tenors were Ian Partridge and Phillip. Our later collaborations were mainly on the Opera stage where his talents blossomed amazingly. But, for me, (as for Richard Hickox, another great personal loss) it was his uncanny performances of Britten, particularly his recordings, that will be his lasting legacy.
Although I bewail the loss of a loved and respected colleague, it is Anne and Phillip's children who merit our lasting concern.
- John Shirley-Quirk||07 Mar 10|
|I found out about it by accident... just randomly went on his wiki page and saw he died. i still can't believe it... he was so full of life and haven't heard he was ill.
He was not simply my favourite tenor, he made me like tenors at the first place. Best Vere, best Grimes, and a wonderful Loge.
is there a video with him of Death in Venice? i know there's no officical dvd, but maybe a TV broadcast somewhere? - Sieglinde||07 Mar 10|
|l remember working with him billy bud scottish opera also teatro la scala peter grimes it was a pleasure god bless - john tranter bass||07 Mar 10|
|"I waited for the sound of my own last bell..."
It was a privelege to work with Philip in the many recordings we did for Collins Classics and others in the 90s; I shall cherish our first meeting .. and our last. With love to Ann and all the family. - John West||07 Mar 10|
|A beautifully written and accurate obit. of a truly great man and artist. He really was unique.....a once in a lifetime performer, colleague and friend. I shall never forget him, as Capt. Vere looking into my eyes (I was singing Billy Budd) with such sensitivity and humanity. And SUCH a wonderful, full of fun man off stage. A great loss, firstly for his family of course...but also for the music world and indeed the world at large. Good bye Phillip......STARRY VERE......GOD BLESS YOU! - Jason Howard||07 Mar 10|
|What a shock, I had no idea he had been ill. My first show at the Met as a member of the extra chorus was Moses und Aron. I got to be onstage for weeks in close proximity to Philip. His skill as a musician, not to mention his charm and class as a colleague, made such a huge impression on me. He was truly one of the good guys, and will be missed. - Charles||07 Mar 10|
|As Jumbo (David Wilson-Johnson) has commented, Philip will always be in our minds and thoughts whenever Grimes is performed. I conducted countless perfs with him (CG, ENO, Met) and he WAS Peter Grimes. A consummate musician, brilliant actor and the best colleague one could wish for. His Budd and Death in Venice at the Met were quite unforgettable.
I am still trying to take in the unbelievably sad news. The arts world has just lost one of the greatest tenors ever. My thoughts go out to his wife, Ann (Murray) and his family, all of whom he was incredibly proud. Rest in peace dear friend. - David Atherton||07 Mar 10|
|I worked alongside Philip and he was a wonderful friend and colleague who is irreplaceable. My sympathy to Ann and his children. - Brian Kinsey||07 Mar 10|
|From 1975, when I first was lucky enough to work with him, Philip was the tenor who ALWAYS touched my heart, whatever and whenever he sang. His death is shattering. - Lucinda||07 Mar 10|
|Awful and shocking news. I was ENO Chorus and was lucky enough to be in many shows with Philip. Not only was his wonderful singing and deeply moving acting an inspiration, but he was the nicest man possible, without pretension or 'side'. The Grimes that he did with us was burned on my heart and remains so. What a terrible loss not only to his family, but to Music. - Rachel||07 Mar 10|
|Philip was a wonderful friend and such a great tenor. His Peter Grimes will NEVER be bettered. - Sue Kinsey||07 Mar 10|
|This is very sad. What a loss.. I can remember him most vividly in a double bill at the ENO, singing Janacek's Diary Of One Who Disappeared in the first half and then Oedipus in Oedipus Rex in the second half. It was in the days when the ENO didn't mind a challenge. They had dramatised both of these works. The memory of Philip singing perfectly the ecstatic central songs of the Diary while lying with his partner under a playing grand piano centre stage will live forever. What an artist. - Philip Spires||07 Mar 10|
|Undoubtedly our most sung unsung hero.
Never less than effortless in his delivery.From his earliest days technically inspirational,& a joy to have known.
Thankyou Philip for everything. - John Oakman||07 Mar 10|
|Philip will be sorely missed by Opera South. We have just finished a run of Offenbach's La Perichole and the news of his serious illness was met with sadness by singers young and old in the dressing rooms. He was our President, and did much to promote our main object as a charity to promote the careers of young singers at the start of their careers. - David Swayne||07 Mar 10|
|I am incrdeibly saddened by these choking news. I knew he had fallen ill as he was to visit the Royal Danish Opera School with of his wonderful and inspiring masterclasses. I have been lucky to work with him on many occations. He helped me to understand that being sensitive is not a bad thing and put a lot of humour into his teaching which is priceless. He himself was such a warm and giving person and shall be greatly missed among those who knew him or/and his voice. And there is one less briliant teacher in the world now - they don't come often. - Ingeborg Børch||07 Mar 10|
|This news is a shock. I just thought that he was a perpetual force in music and a distinctive, dedicated and totally professional performer who's work I enjoyed many times. Thank the heavens for recording. God bless you Sunny Vere! - Andy Cordy||07 Mar 10|
|I performed with Philip many times and cherished him as a colleague and friend. Any performance with Philip guaranteed a fun evening of work and a satisfying experience of music making. God bless you, Philip. My condolences to Ann and all your family. - Alan||07 Mar 10|
|I studied privately with Philip last year in London, and I can say that he was the kindest man I have ever met. His knowledge of the voice, his artistry on and offstage were all met with an utter desire to give, give, give. I will never be the same and I will treasure the memory of working with him forever. My prayers go out to Ann. - Justin||07 Mar 10|
|I am a member of the MET Opera Orchestra. Philip Langridge changed my life. Seeing his Vere and Peter Grimes were the highlights of my artistic career. Those moments are etched in my heart forever. This is a sad day - Leigh||07 Mar 10|
|This is awful news - Philip Langridge was one of my favourites and I'm just thankful to have had the pleasure of seeing him in so many productions - always something to look forward to.
He was the best Vere I've seen, and I was lucky enough to catch his Aschenbach in a concert performance at the Barbican a while back.
Sad sad....... can't believe I'll never see him again.
- Margaret||07 Mar 10|
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